Murder on the Orient Express
Most train slayings occur when tramps board a boxcar filled with drunken hobos. However, the choo choo in this mystery is too ritzy for silly rail yard homicides.
While returning to London aboard the famed Orient Express, the equally eminent Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is propositioned by a fellow passenger (Johnny Depp) looking to hire the detective to protect him for the duration of their journey. It’s not until the man turns up dead does Poirot grasp the seriousness of his offer. Intrigue, as always, Poirot gathers the other passengers/suspects (Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley) and interrogates them.
In the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s whodunit, Branagh manages to pull off her meticulous sleuth, but stumbles as the film’s director. While the reveal is still a classic, the real crime is the underutilized supporting cast.
Sadly though, most killers in train related deaths are drunken engineers.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Without roadside billboards out of control vehicles would just careen into an empty farmer’s pasture. Luckily, the small-town in this drama has an excess of advertisement opportunity.
Fuming over the fact that the local sheriff (Woody Harrelson) still hasn’t arrested any suspects in the rape/murder of her teenage daughter 7-months ago, Mildred (Frances McDormand) purchases ad space on three billboards and uses them to taunt the sheriff and his inept and racist deputy (Sam Rockwell). Messing with the authorities, however, only brings the hammer down harder on Mildred, her family and her friends. Fortunately, everyone else in Ebbing is as fed up with the law enforcement as her.
In spite of its many strong performances and complex script that blends comedy with its tragedy, this fictitious narrative comes off as unrealistic, malicious and laughable at the end.
Besides, to really distract drivers from the road you need 3 digital billboards.
When returning for the Day of the Dead, the biggest obstacle Mexican ghosts face is scaling Trump’s metaphysical wall. Fortunately, the deceased in this animated-musical has no one on the other side to visit.
More concerned with being a musician, like his grandfather (Benjamin Bratt), then joining the family business, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) steals his dead abuelo’s guitar. But when he strums the instrument Miguel is spirited to the land of the dead, where he must work with a disgraced skeleton (Gael García Bernal) to get back home before he joins the dead.
A vibrant and colourful adventure that utilizes elements from the Mexican holiday to weave a touching tale about family, tradition and life after death that is accompanied by a handful of toe-tapping tunes and spirit animals, Coco offers terrific insight into this misunderstood holiday.
However, instead of visiting with family most ghosts return to Mexico for the donkey show.
The only employers who have a workforce over the age of 70 are Wal-Mart and Parliament. So it’s no surprise that the political party in this drama would elect a senior as its new head.
Displeased with Neville Chamberlain’s kowtowing to Hitler and his swelling Nazis movement, Britain’s Labour Party moves to oust him as Prime Minister and replace him with a Lord from the Royal Navy, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman). Faced with the daunting decision of either capitulating or combating the encroaching threat, Churchill not only seeks advice from his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) and secretary (Lily James), but also the commoners.
While it can get bogged down in political minutia at times, Oldman’s turn as the portly Prime Minister, along with the spirited dialogue and rousing speeches, keep this reasonably accurate historical biography from becoming boring.
Incidentally, the darkest hour is the best time to break and enter.
The Cloverfield Paradox
The worst thing about life on an international space station is that Russian and American astronauts always collude to rig movie night voting. Sadly, the crew in this thriller won’t live long enough to complain about this week’s selection.
While in the throes of an energy crisis, Earth launches representatives from around the world (David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Chris O’Dowd, Gugu Mbatha-Raw), along with a particle accelerator that will tap into alternative energy sources, into space. But when the accelerator opens a portal to an alternate reality, a bevy of behemoths are unleashed on Earth.
The third installment in the cryptic Cloverfield franchise, this Netflix distributed sequel sheds some light on the origins of the monsters plaguing our planet, but its slapdash and incongruous script simply feels shoehorned into the larger narrative.
And while giant monsters don’t necessarily ease our energy crisis, their carcasses will help with global food shortages.
Usually when a student wears a mask to school everyone heads for the nearest exit and calls 9-1-1. However, if it’s the concealed kid in this drama, you welcome them.
Born with a defect that finds him hiding behind a mask in public, Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) has been homeschooled by his parents (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson) his whole life – until now. Exposed, Auggie faces his peers for the first time. While some are kind, most are not. Meanwhile, his older sister (Izabela Vidovic) competes against her former BFF for the lead in the school play.
From facial deformities to middle school bullies to a dead dog to an amateur production of Our Town, this family melodrama pulls every tear-jerking trick it can to endear itself to the viewer. Unfortunately, its manipulative schmaltz is boilerplate, sitcom-y even.
Besides, once you get to high school every teenager has a facial deformity.
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
With its high rate of slip and falls accidents, lawyers are the only people who love winter. However, the eccentric attorney in this drama isn’t interested personal injury suits right now.
When his law firm partner suffers a heart attack, Roman J. Israel (Denzel Washington) must unwilling step out from behind-the-scenes to represent the cases in court he has only researched. His lack of social skills sinks the firm and Roman soon finds work with a shark (Colin Farrell). But when his boss wants him to put profit before ethics, Roman’s mental state deteriorates.
While Washington plays the unconventional counsel with aplomb, the one note storyline unfortunately is constructed around his social awkwardness, and not much else. With very little driving this legal drama besides a feeble murder case, it just becomes a meditation on an exasperating character.
Moreover, it’s not a good sign when your lawyer can plead insanity.
Motherhood in the 1950s was more productive because you were free to spank any child you wanted. Unfortunately, the mother in this dark-comedy is the one who ends up battered.
Suburbanite Gardner (Matt Damon) hires two thugs to invade his home and murder his wife so that his sister-in-law (Julianne Moore) can live with him and his son Nicky. But when Nicky fingers his mom’s murderers in a police lineup, Gardner’s plan to collect his wife’s life insurance to pay the hoods goes awry. Meanwhile, their all-white suburb is upended when an African-American family moves in next-door.
A laughless comedy and toothless crime-thriller wrapped in preachy commentary on race relations, this social satire written by the Coen Brothers but directed by George Clooney tries to be too many righteous things at once that it fails spectacularly at all.
Incidentally, suburbs today are filled with all-races dumb enough to live there.
Only the Brave
The key to preventing forest fires from ever occurring is killing every cigarette smoker. Luckily, cancer will take care of them, while the firefighters in this drama extinguish their handiwork.
Aggravated that he and his first responders (Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale) are relegated to the rear whenever out-of-State Hotshot fire crews show up and start delegating during a blaze, superintendent Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) petitions the mayor to let him train his own elite team of frontline firefighters. But when the upstart squadron faces off against an uncontrollable wildfire on Yarnell Hill, their mettle is truly tested.
Based on the GQ magazine article of the tragic 2013 fire that claimed 19 lives, this retelling brings personality to those who fell. And while the dialogue is a tad melodramatic, the visuals and the emotions are palpable.
Nevertheless, a spontaneous wildfire is still a good excuse to burn your garbage.
He’s Shakespeare in the Parka. He’s the…
VidiotCoco, Darkest Hour, Esq., Missouri, Murder on the Orient Express, Only the Brave, Roman J. Israel, Suburbicon, The Cloverfield Paradox, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Vidiot, Wonder